Join scholar Rae Pleasant, PhD candidate at University of Texas at Dallas Aesthetic Studies program in the Department of Arts and Humanities, and American Folk Art Museum’s 2016–2018 Susan Te Kahurangi King Fellow, for a talk (1–1:45 p.m.) highlighting new research on the artist Susan Te Kahurangi King (b. 1951, New Zealand), based on a selection of artworks generously loaned to the museum to be studied and exhibited. Pleasant’s presentation will touch on a range of topics related to King’s art, including the major subjects and references found in her artwork. Reimagining cartoon characters, remembering moments spent with her grandmother, and reinterpreting observations from daily life are recurring topics in King’s oeuvre. In abstract or literal ways, the imagery in her drawings can be linked to the comics and toys of her childhood, or to entries in her grandmother’s journals. Exploring major themes in King’s artwork is as endless and free-form as the twisting lines in her drawings. How can the process of observation and academic research inspire contemporary artists? While observing King’s work, people are emotionally moved and mentally stimulated. What can caretakers and medical professionals learn from King’s life and achievements? She represents the power of possibility for children and adults living with special needs. Her artwork bridges communities and fields of study in ways that inspires hope.
Rae Pleasant’s talk will be followed by a short gallery presentation (1:45–2 p.m.) of King’s works included in the current exhibition (Vestiges & Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epics) by the artist, her sister Petita Cole, and Chris Byrne. The King fellow will resume this engaging program with an hour-long guided, hands-on art making workshop (2–3 p.m.). Visitors will be invited to engage with the artist’s techniques and materials. This workshop is designed for participants of all ages, experience levels, and developmental abilities. Intended inclusion for adults with special needs and their caretakers, the activity is meant to encourage shape and color recognition and a stronger appreciation for healthy eating habits.
Susan Te Kahurangi King Fellowship: Committed to furthering research on Susan Te Kahurangi King and contemporary self-taught artists, the American Folk Art Museum has created the Susan Te Kahurangi King Fellowship program to be operational between May 2016 and May 2018. The program is generously funded by Mr. and Mrs. Lester A. Levy Jr.
Susan Te Kahurangi King (b. 1951, Te Aroha, New Zealand) is an artist living in Auckland, New Zealand. Her work has begun to receive worldwide attention for its innovative approach to drawing and the rigorousness of her visual vocabulary, which shows a disregard for and indifference to time and medium. As a young child, King stopped speaking and has since been diagnosed as autistic. Her family recognized her gifts as an artist at an early age. She drew prolifically for decades, and then she stopped at the beginning of the 1990s. In 2008, she resumed her practice, fueled by renewed interest shown in her work, not long before the filming of Pictures of Susan (directed by Dan Salmon, Octopus Pictures Limited, 2012). In spite of King’s reclusiveness from verbal and written communication, she has methodically created an entire analogous world through her work, whose subjects get reconfigured and distorted in subsequent pictures. Since 2009, King’s oeuvre has been exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; American Folk Art Museum, New York; Marlborough Contemporary, London; Outsider Art Fair in New York and Paris with Chris Byrne; Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York; and Robert Heald Gallery, Wellington. Her works are included in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the James Wallace Arts Trust, New Zealand; and the Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, New Zealand.
Image credit: Susan Te Kahurangi King (1951, New Zealand); untitled (double-sided); Auckland, New Zealand; c. 1960; crayon and colored pencil on paper; 13 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.; courtesy of the artist, Chris Byrne, and the American Folk Art Museum Susan Te Kahurangi King Fellowship. Photo by Adam Reich, © Susan Te Kahurangi King.